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Da-Lite Screen Material Review

70199 Views 98 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  mechman
Da-Lite Screen Material Review

Da-Lite is the largest screen manufacturer in the world. With over 90 years of expertise, they offer a wide variety of screen materials that can suit just about anyone’s home theater needs. Those of you that have read the “Gain and other confusing topics.” thread are aware of Da-Lite’s history. For those of you that haven’t read it (you should!) here’s a brief synopsis from Bill’s post:

First a brief bit of history about the ‘Silver Screen’.
At the turn of the century, 1909 to be specific, motion pictures were becoming the rage. One problem that plagued the fledgling theater industry was that projectors and screen materials at that time were extremely limited and crude by today’s standards. This resulted in images being very dim and quite hard to see, but the public was still fascinated with moving pictures.

Adele DeBerri owned a theater in Chicago during this era. She was a unique individual, remember this was an era when women typically did not own and operate a business. Not only was she a pioneer in that respect, but she was an innovator as well. Adele had the idea to paint the screen image area with a silver paint that was highly reflective and therefore would reflect more light back at the viewing audience. That’s how the ‘Silver Screen’ was born. What many may not be aware of is Adele went on to developed a silver painted canvas projection screen that quickly became the standard for the industry. Da-Lite Screen Company, Inc. is the successor to the business founded in Chicago in 1909 by Adele DeBerri.

The reason for high gain screens date back to the earlier example of turn of the century projectors that needed something to focus the light and make the image brighter. Today projectors are much more sophisticated and ten fold better than the old ‘moving picture’ projectors back at the turn of the century. The projectors currently available are so bright that if a person was to look directly into the lens it could cause permanent eye damage. So if our newer projectors are significantly brighter than even projectors made ten years ago let alone turn of the century technology, and gain is to produce a brighter image- why do people still seek a high gain screen? Situation and setting is often the main reason. Excessively large screens also come to mind.
When I emailed Da-Lite for samples they originally sent me the small 6.5”X6.5” sample booklet that they’d send out to potential customers. After finishing my other reviews I had decided against doing a review with samples that small and decided to email Da-Lite again. They put me in touch with Wendy Long, who’s a customer service rep for them. Wendy was understanding in what I wanted to accomplish and agreed to send me 5 samples. The Da-Mat, High Power, Cinema Vision, XX XX. Upon reviewing that list there were others that I wanted to look at as well, so I emailed a request for those as well. Da-Lite was very accommodating in sending what I had requested. If you’re following along so far I think you can see where I’m going with this. Every time I emailed them I had an email back the next day. Customer Service is obviously a very high priority with Da-Lite. They may be the largest screen manufacturer in the world but they haven’t forgotten about customer service!

The Samples

Here’s the list of samples along with the synopsis of each from Da-Lite.

High Power

This screen surface is a technological breakthrough, providing the reflectivity and optical characteristics of a traditional glass beaded surface with the ability to clean the surface when necessary. Its textured surface provides the highest gain of all front projection screen surfaces with no resolution loss. The moderate viewing angle and its ability to reflect light back along the projection axis make this surface the best choice for situations where there is a moderate amount of ambient light and the projector is placed on a table-top or in the same horizontal viewing plane as the audience.
Gain: 2.8 Viewing Angle: 30°

Video Spectra™ 1.5

This screen surface is specially designed with a reflective coating, which provides an increased amount of brightness with a moderately reduced viewing angle. The increased gain of this surface makes it suitable for environments where ambient lighting is uncontrollable and a projector with moderate light output is utilized.
Gain: 1.5 Viewing Angle: 35°


A screen surface with a smooth, white vinyl finish for precise image reproduction. Provides an exceptionally wide viewing angle and no resolution loss. It is a highly flexible fabric that may be folded or rolled. Its versatility makes it a great choice for situations with good control over ambient light and where an exceptionally wide viewing angle is necessary.
Gain: 1.0 Viewing Angle: 60°

Cinema Vision

A unique non-supported vinyl fabric that offers a bright, uniform image with no color shift at any viewing angle. This surface is designed to provide a higher amount of brightness for lower output projector types such as CRT. Its increased reflectivity will help enhance the image brightness in situations where a low level of ambient light is present.
Gain: 1.3 Viewing Angle: 45°


A non-supported vinyl fabric, offering a higher degree of reflectivity and brilliance without loss of image quality or resolution. This surface is a good choice when projecting video images with a lower output projector and where there is a high amount of ambient light present.
Gain: 1.5 Viewing Angle: 40°

Audio Vision

Designed for applications where a more realistic soundstage is desired, this fabric allows for the installation of speakers to be placed behind the surface. With virtually no sound loss and good image quality, this fabric provides the same optical characteristics as the Da-Mat Surface with specially designed perforations to allow sound to pass through the screen material.
Gain: 1.0 Viewing Angle: 50°

High Contrast Cinema Vision

Designed for today's moderate output DLP and LCD projectors, this screen surface is a great choice when video images are the main source of information being projected and where ambient lighting is moderately controlled. With its specially designed gray base surface and a reflective top surface, this screen material is able to provide very good black levels and brilliant white levels. This screen surface provides deep life-like colors and greater detail and sharpness to the image.
Gain: 1.1 Viewing Angle: 50°

High Contrast Audio Vision

With the same optical characteristics as the High Contrast Da-Mat material, this surface is designed to provide the viewer with a more realistic soundstage by placing speakers behind the screen and allowing the sound to be transmitted through the material. This screen surface is best used when there is a good control of ambient lighting and a moderately wide viewing angle is desired.
Gain: 0.8 Viewing Angle: 45°

Silver Matte

A uniquely designed screen surface with a specifically designed silver finish. This surface is perfect for situations where a silver surface is necessary for a polarized 3-D projection. The matte finish of this surface successfully rejects ambient light. Screen surface can be cleaned with mild soap and water. Flame retardant and mildew resistant.
Gain: 1.3 Viewing Angle: 30°

The Testing Environment

I’ve stated this before and I’ll state it again. I’m just an average Joe with a home theater. I do not have any fancy equipment (yet – some of it is on the way though!) for testing these things other than a very good camera, an average home theater and my eyes.

The projector is a Mitsubishi HC3000U which is rated 1000 ANSI lumens and 4000:1 contrast ratio. It is set up and calibrated for my gray screen.

The camera is an Olympus Evolt 500 with a Zuiko 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens. I’ve been an Olympus guy for over 20 years and this camera is no slouch! The cameras is set up on a tripod about 10.5 feet back from the screen and it's raised to about head level when I'm sitting on the couch - about 42 inches. There are a couple of shots in the original shoot that I raised the camera up as high as it would go. This was a vain attempt on my part to squeeze a High Power review without taking my projector down. I realized this was vain very quickly and redid the shots.

The DVD player is an Oppo 971H.

The DirecTV receiver is a HR20.

All shots are taken in RAW format. RAW format, for those that are unfamiliar with the term, is the unprocessed digital image direct from the camera’s sensor. These shots are then loaded into Adobe Bridge and color balanced utilizing Raw Workflow’s WhiBal card. This gives you as accurate color reproduction that I’m capable of at this time.

From Raw Workflow's webpage:

The single WhiBal card is light Gray, certified to recommended Luminance level of L* = ~75, which is optimum for use in all RAW converters.

Having a "GrayCard" reference is the best assurance that the digital pictures that you capture will have the ability to be properly White Balanced. Only with a proper White Balance can you be ensured of proper and accurate color, regardless of lighting conditions. Unlike your eyes, a digital camera does not automatically see whites as white. It sees the color of the light reflected from it, hence blue-ish in Daylight and Orange-ish in incandescent lighting. By photographing a Gray Card reference for each lighting situation that you are in, you are assured of being able to achieve a proper White Balance for all of your pictures.The Gray Card reference picture can be used with today's software to balance the color casts that various lighting conditions produce with all digital cameras. The best method to properly White Balance your digital pictures is by using a Gray Card properly and shooting RAW. RAW Conversion Software such as Adobe Camera Raw and RawShooter can then perfectly adjust all the captures that were shot under the same lighting conditions.
They have a number of videos on their webpage related to neutrality as well. If you want to learn more about the WhiBal card or neutrality and how it relates to both photos and screens I suggest you visit their site.

Here are the various Whibal shots for this review:

I used simple one eighth inch pegboard to hang the samples in front of my screen.

They were attached using brass two prong thumbtacks.

Here’s a few shots of the samples layed out on the floor. Can you guess which one’s the High Power?

And one with some of them hung up.

There are two different lighting scenarios in the following posts, moderate ambient and totally dark. Moderate ambient is a term I'll use for the back five cans being on at around 80%. It's enough for someone to read a book while someone else is viewing the screen. Why? Because more and more people are using their theaters not only for movies, but for television as well. And sometimes the wife and or husband does not care to watch what the significant other is viewing, but still prefers to stay in the same room.

In the High Power review postings there will be three ambient scenarios. No ambient, moderate ambient, and one with all lights on including the two near the screen. This screen is being sold as a moderate ambient light rejecting screen so I had to put it through the wringers! Here's a shot of moderate and high ambient.

In the near future I should be able to measure this ambient light. When I can I'll edit in the values here.

Also I have a couple shots of the High Power setup:

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Home Theater Shack Shootout Conclusions

Unless Da-Lite can convince me otherwise, the Silver Matte is the better material. I will wait until talking to Da-Lite before adding more.

I do know that they have a screen called the Silver Vision, which I did not get a large sample of. It's description from Da-Lite:

This screen surface is uniquely designed with a specially formulated silver finish. This surface is perfect for situations where a silver finish is necessary for polarized 3-D projection. The silver finish of this surface successfully rejects ambient light. It is a highly flexible fabric that must be tensioned. Screen surface can be cleaned with mild soap and water. Flame retardant and mildew resistant.
Other than the .2 higher gain and the fact that it's a vinyl material (will need a tensioned screen), it's pretty much the same as the Silver Matte.
Oh what a difference calibration makes!

This is something I have been saying for a long time now, and that is how calibrating for two very different shades can make or break a screen. Mech you remember a long long time ago when I think you had a Parkland screen and at first weren't very impressed with your current screen. We talked about how when a projector is calibrated to one screen shade it can make another screen look bad, then when the projector is recalibrated for the other shade, the first screen usually looks bad. Some people would pass right over the Silver Matte in favor if the much brighter HP and seeing the two on the top, it's very easy to see why. But the bottom shot tells a very different story doesn't it?

When the lights are on full is the real tell tell tail sign to me. The HP changes the most from lights out to lights on. Some may not like the overall darker look of the Silver Matte, but overall performance seems much better.
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For those that liked the review, and are interested in the Matte White or High Contrast Cinema Vision (HCCV) and want to save some money, you can buy just the material by the square foot. I believe Da-Lite will sell it this way, but I know Projector People sells it by custom cut sizes. It is $4.75 a sqft for Matte White, and $6.75 for the HCCV. So a 106" diagonal screen would cost $190 and $270 respectively.

This still requires a border frame to be constructed, so for those that may not feel comfortable with a DIY screen, but want to save some money and do feel comfortable making a border, or just want some feel of a DIY project, this may fit the bill.
Silver Matte Conclusions

The Silver Matte is another fiberglass material. Therefore there's no need for any motors or tensioning. The price for a 100" Cosmopolitan 16:9 screen is $950.

It has the same household attributes as the others - flame retardant, mildew resistant, and washable.

This screen has been touted as "perfect for situations where a silver surface is necessary for polarized 3-D projection".

On that note and in light of the above pictures, I'm going to visit this post once I talk to Da-Lite on Tuesday or Wednesday. Expect something then.
Some follow up information from a conversation with Da-Lite:
Da-Lite said:
Our Silver Matte screen surface is designed for 3 Dimension projection. The aluminum in the screen surface maintains the polarization of a 3D image. It has a good amount of gain to boost the brightness of a projected image however it is very gray. The gray base and aluminum in the material could color shift a normally projected (non 3D) towards gray, so that the whites and yellows become tinted towards gray which is why we do not market it for normal front projection. That being said there a few people who use Silver Matte for regular front projection because of the gain and the enhanced contrast.
So yes Silver Matte can be purchased by anyone. Also, like any darker gray, in order to maintain whites and vibrant colors a brighter projector is recommended. For those with the right amount of Lumen output, this is a very nice looking screen.
Thanks Bill!! I never got around to it and then I forgot about it completely! Silver Matte would make a great screen in my book!! And I'd like to add that Silver Matte had whiter whites than my FG screen even though it is much darker.

Thanks Bill!! I never got around to it and then I forgot about it completely! Silver Matte would make a great screen in my book!! And I'd like to add that Silver Matte had whiter whites than my FG screen even though it is much darker.

Yeah we really need to talk to them and show them that with the right amount of lumens it's more than just good and really should be presented as more than a '3D' screen.

I definitely picked up on one thing... Aluminum ;) So I'm not so nuts after all lol.
what you picked up on was the first thing i noticed when you made that post - you better tell them that you have a DIY copyright on that stuff!!! :p
Hi Mech,

Any news why the silver matt screen was not considered a HT screen by da-lite?

No. But I do know of someone who tried it and didn't like it. We're getting close to something similar DIY-wise. I kind of gave up trying to find out. I just kept getting the stock reply, like they were answering according to a script.

This surface is perfect for situations where a silver surface is necessary for a polarized 3-D projection.
I know that it does have a bit of a blue push IIRC.

Check out this thread:


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Video Spectra™ 1.5 and the Pearlescent Conclusions
The Video Spectra is a bit different in that it is a fiberglass material. Unlike the vinyl material which needs to be tensioned. This knocks the price of the Video Spectra down considerably! For a 16:9 Cosmopolitan 100" screen - $950.
This would be a permanent screen as well as there are no electric motors either.
According to what I understood from this link http://www.da-lite.com/dalitehometheater/products/view_product.php?product_id=30 the video spectra does not necessarily have to be a permanent screen. Am I mistaken?
Hey Mech,

Another question for you since you are our Da-Lite reviewer and you have a strong credibility I beleive:yes:...

Did you ever feel the fiberglass based screens (that are not tensioned) may flutter with bass pressure waves, or did it feel like being tough and high in density? Also, If I remember well fiberglass may not have any resonant frequency in the subs range.
Hey Mech,

Another question for you since you are our Da-Lite reviewer and you have a strong credibility I beleive:yes:...

Did you ever feel the fiberglass based screens (that are not tensioned) may flutter with bass pressure waves, or did it feel like being tough and high in density? Also, If I remember well fiberglass may not have any resonant frequency in the subs range.

You're getting me into territory that I'm unfamiliar with - Audio! I'm not on par with others here at the Shack on the audio side of things. The big difference between the fiberglass material and the vinyl material is the vinyl feels like it has some elasticity to it while the fiberglass is a bit more firm. Have you tried chatting with a Da-Lite representative on their web page? They do have a live chat feature. :T

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